Netflix. Redefining Television.

Netflix is changing the way we think about television: What we watch. When we watch it. And, most importantly, how we watch it.

Its movie-suggestion service makes Netflix more than a streaming-video company; it makes it your streaming-video company, fine-tuned to your tastes.

This post concerns Netflix and how it is re-defining television — based on my experiences with the video-streaming and video-rental service for the last ten months, during which time I’ve been without any cable subscription.

INTRO AND PERSONALIZATION

With more than 20 million subscribers and counting, as of January, 2011, Netflix is becoming quite a player in the video-on-demand world. In fact, according to the company, it’s the world’s leading Internet subscription service. From 2009 to 2010, Netflix increased its subscription base by more than 4.5 million. At that pace, in 2011, Netflix will easily become the nation’s leading  video service offline as well. Comcast is currently the nation’s largest at 22.8 million subscribers.

“With more than 20 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) is the world’s leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streaming over the Internet to PCs, Macs and TVs. Among the large and expanding base of devices streaming from Netflix are Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS3 consoles; an array of Blu-ray disc players, Internet-connected TVs, home theater systems, digital video recorders and Internet video players; Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Apple TV and Google TV. In all, more than 200 devices that stream from Netflix are available in the U.S. and a growing number are available in Canada. For more information, visit www.netflix.com.” Source: Netflix

As far as content is concerned, Netflix is hard to beat. Starz alone supplies about 2,500 pieces, split evenly between movies and TV titles. That’s nearly identical to content offerings from Starz to Comcast and DirecTV, per Hollywood Reporter.

Other major content providers for Netflix include Time Warner, Fox, Epix, Relativity and NBC Universal.

What started as a DVD-by-mail service has transformed into a streaming super-power. Streaming content for Netflix is an estimated 20,000 titles (and counting). And it’s all available to watch instantly on your TV, laptop, PC or mobile device.

Oh, and they’ve got around 100,000 titles on DVD, available by-mail in about two days.

All you’ve got to do is pick a plan, starting at $7.99 per month with streaming. Users can change or cancel their subscription at any time. No early cancelation fees here.

Netflixers can choose from a number of subscription options:
  1. Streaming Only – Watch Instantly Unlimited – $7.99 per month
  2. Streaming Plus One DVD out at-a-time – Watch Instantly Unlimited – $9.99 per month
  3. Streaming Plus Two DVDs out at-a-time – Watch Instantly Unlimited – $14.99 per month
  4. Streaming Plus Three DVDs out at-a-time – Watch Instantly Unlimited – $19.99 per month
  5. Streaming Plus Four DVDs out at-a-time – Watch Instantly Unlimited – $27.99 per month
  6. DVD-only option – One DVD out at-a-time, 2 DVD-per-month maximum by mail – $4.99 per month (plus 2 hours of streaming to a PC)
Blu-ray Option: Netflix subscribers have access to some 1,000 Blu-ray titles for an additional $3 per month, on any plan including DVDs by mail. Netflix offers other plans, up to eight DVDs at-a-time for $55.99 per month.

I’m on plan 3, Unlimited Streaming and two DVDs by mail at-a-time for $14.99 per month. My wife and I each select one DVD at a time and we can watch Netflix Streaming whenever we want on any TV in our house (thanks to Playstation 3, Wii and our Sony Blu-ray player, which are all connected to Netflix) or online. When we’re done with one DVD, we send it back in the mail, with the provided and prepaid red envelope. The next title in our online queue arrives in about two or three days. In plans 2 through 5 above (my numbering system, not from Netflix), users can rent as many DVDs by mail per month as there free time can allow. There is no maximum number of titles per month, as there is in option 6, with a max of two DVDs per month for $4.99/mo.

My DVD queue, showing what 2 DVDs I currently have ‘out’, and then the next in line. From a library of 100,000+. Titles can be shifted up or down and new titles can be added at any time.

Personalization: You’re gonna like this…

Maybe the best part of Netflix, after the content of course, is its Suggestions for You.

Can you imagine your TV or Cable Box saying, “Hey there, noticed you enjoyed ‘House, M.D. yesterday. I think you might like ‘The Mentalist.‘”

Welcome to Movie Suggestions from Netflix. Similar to Pandora’s music selection, Netflix suggests movies you’ll like based on your ratings and ratings from others who have similar tastes in movies, as well as information from your Taste Preferences.

1. Movie Ratings

“Netflix has more than 3 billion movie ratings from members. The average  member rated more than 200 movies. Netflix members rate about four million movies a day.” -Netflix Press Kit

Users can rate movies they’ve seen in and out of Netflix. Users are able to view movies, and then rate them on netflix.com, in the following categories: all genres or in 14 genres individually. They are: Action & Adventure; Animation; Anime; Children & Family; Comedies; Documentaries; Dramas; Foreign; Horror; Independent; Musicals; Sci-Fi & Fantasy; TV Shows; and Thrillers. Users rate movies on a scale of one to five stars.

TV Shows and Movies that I can rate on a scale of one to five (stars). At the time of this screenshot, I had rated 362 titles. Now I’ve scored more than 500 titles.

I’ve rated some 530 movies & TV shows to this point. I’ve also noticed, the more movies I rate, the closer the suggestions are getting to my actual tastes.

Speaking of tastes…

2. Taste Preferences

Netflix has 13 Taste Preferences that users can fill out to let Netflix know what types of movies they like. Basically, 13 preference categories. They are, specifically: moods, genres, qualities, storylines, release date (decades), sub genres, languages, children’s age, sports & fitness, music, story source, cultures and special interest.

Each preference category contains around 40 questions. That’s more than 500 ways to detect your taste in movies and TV. Which leads me to believe Netflix knows me better than my wife.

This screenshot displays Taste Preferences, one of 13 different preference categories. Each category contains around 40 questions. That’s more than 500 ways to detect your taste in movies and TV.

On the Netflix.com dashboard, under the “Suggestions for You” tab, lies “Taste Preferences.” This questionnaire allows users decide how often they watch movies of that particular genre: 1) Never; 2) Sometimes or 3) Often. Above I’ve displayed my rankings for the Genre category.

Netflix uses this information (Movie Ratings and Taste Preferences) to fine-tune its movie and TV suggestions. I’ve notice the more titles I rate, the better it gets at determining what I’ll like.

Its movie-suggestion service makes Netflix more than a streaming-video company; it makes it your streaming-video company, fine-tuned to your tastes.

Sources: Netflix.com, Reuters.com, HollywoodReporter.com, Cape Cod Times, Netflix.com Press Kit http://cdn-0.nflximg.com/us/pdf/Consumer_Press_Kit.pdf

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